Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1063–1085 | Cite as

How do Emotion Word Type and Valence Influence Language Processing? The Case of Arabic–English Bilinguals

  • Dina Abdel Salam El-DakhsEmail author
  • Jeanette Altarriba


The current study examines the influence of word type (i.e., emotion-label vs. emotion-laden) and valence (i.e., positive vs. negative vs. neutral) on the processing of emotion words among bilinguals. To this end, three groups of Arabic–English bilinguals (n = 120 per group) completed the tasks of free recall, ratings for concreteness, imageability and context availability, and discrete word association. Two groups, representing different levels of second language (L2) exposure completed the tasks in English while the third group completed the tasks in Arabic. The results of the free recall and rating tasks generally supported the influence of word type, valence and L2 exposure on the processing of emotional content; namely, emotion-label vs. emotion-laden vs. neutral words and negative vs. positive emotion words generally behaved significantly differently, and the participants with increased L2 exposure usually outperformed the ones with less exposure. In contrast, the word association task often failed to present statistically significant findings. The results are interpreted in line with the specific nature of the Arabic mental lexicon, the existing literature, and relevant theoretical models of emotion and the bilingual mental lexicon. Directions for future research are proposed.


Emotion words Valence Word type Arabic–English bilinguals Bilingual lexicon Second language learning 



The researchers thank Prince Sultan University for funding this research project through the Research Project [IBRP-CH-2018-9-1] and the research group [Language Learning and Teaching Research Group RG-CH-2016/11/11].


This study was funded by Prince Sultan University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Grant Number IBRP-CH-2018-9-1).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

The current study complies with ethical standards. Clearance from the Research Ethics Committee of Prince Sultan University was obtained. Informed consent of participants was collected orally as uninterested participants had the option to leave the classroom during the experiments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of HumanitiesPrince Sultan UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.University at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA

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